‘Nomophobia’ and ‘Phantom ring’ are psychological disorders associated with addiction to digital devices. Experts are noticing that more cases of elderly seeking advice for addiction to digital devices are coming to them. They mention that it is not just adults and teenagers who are victims of addictions to digital devices, but even the elderly are getting affected with device overuse.
Dr Srikant Pawar, a psychiatrist from Pune, said, “These days, we get many elderly patients suffering from addictions to digital devices. A week ago, I got a case where a woman in her 60’s came to me and asked me how to defocus from digital devices. For everything, they are dependent on mobile phones.”
Niloufer Ebrahim, a consultant psychologist from Jehangir Hospital, said, “Mobile addiction, gaming, connectivity deprivation, obsessive need to check the partner’s mobile are the most common digital disorders. Apart from that, other disorders include excessive dependence on web-based information, especially, in medical and illness-related areas.”
She added, “People feed in their symptoms, both real and imagined, and use the ‘diagnosis’ to label themselves, even trying to procure medication based on this diagnosis, which is a downright dangerous and hugely prevalent trend. I’ve had patients who use this diagnosis as an excuse for all their actions and behaviour. And start veering towards treating the spouse as some sort of mental health patient when the real issues lie elsewhere.”
People are increasingly getting dependent on their cell phones for contact and information, and also need Social media platforms for self-projection. They can’t wait for responses, feel compelled to respond and comment immediately and use cell phones to micromanage situations, too.
Banking, shopping, booking tickets, making online payments have made the cell phone indispensable. But it is now impeding into all aspects of daily life at any time. It is not unusual to have people online at times when they should be eating, sleeping, playing with their children, studying or working.
At this point, the cell phone ceases to be an aid to comfortable living, and instead becomes a serious impediment to health, successful relationships and productive lives. This is where digital dependence becomes a disorder and an addiction.
Nomophobia is the fear that one has of being without a cell phone for any length of time. One may need to leave one’s phone in custody while attending a certain type of event or meeting or one may have forgotten it at home. Nomophobic people suffer anxiety and stress, being parted from their phones. Poor or no signals, or no battery can cause stress even if no urgent calls are to be made or expected.
“While not yet a part of the mental health classifications under the DSM V, and the issue is still under debate as to whether this condition is a phobia or disorder, for now, I would call it a lifestyle disorder with psychosomatic effects that include panic, fear, stress, anxiety, breathlessness, and even a rise in blood pressure,” she added.
A phantom ring or vibration is when the person imagines their phone is ringing or vibrating even if it is not, and will want to check it immediately. People complain they actually feel a sensation and it is very real for them. As of now, it is not viewed as a serious issue but may affect people, who are expecting calls or messages more than others.
“It affects all the age groups, but common in millennial and people in their 20’s and 30’s. I also see parents use phone deprivation as a punishment tool, which tells us a lot about their poor parenting skills, as well as the child’s dependence on cell phones and digital devices like hand-held tablets,” added Niloufer.